Quite asides the myriad of other objections that I hold towards it, one of the more dispiriting things about midweek European football is the way that it buggers up the weekends after it. In the Premiership, there were no matches of any major significance. Chelsea, thanks to a judicious amount of profligacy in front of goal, made remarkably hard work of beating a Portsmouth team that appear to be finally living up to their pre-season mantle of “not particularly good and stuffed with old duffers”, although David James’ performance was that of a man rolling back the years, rather then the laughing stock that he has become over the last couple of years or so. Meanwhile, at the bottom of the table, Watford and Charlton played out the sort of match which suggests that both of them will be around the relegation places come the end of the season.
Manchester City’s 4-0 defeat at Wigan set me to thinking about the peculiarly miserable existance that being a City supporter must entail. They are, by most people’s admission, a “big” club, but you’d be hard-pressed to think of a “big” club that have been less successful than they have over the thirty years or so and, equally importantly, there are plenty of “smaller” clubs that have won more than them. Their trophy cabinet hasn’t been so much as troubled since the 1976 League Cup, and they have, time and again, contrived new and inventive ways of grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory, whether it be getting knocked out of the FA Cup by Halifax Town (1980), getting to the Cup Final and losing the lead to an extraordinary own goal (1981), going to on the last day of the season to a late goal from a substitute (1983). I could go on. The current lot, epitomized by the likes of Joey Barton and Paul Dickov, should be deeply unlovable, but somehow they manage to avoid my wrath by being quite magnificently incompetent. Whether it’s Barton baring his arse at the end of a match, or Ben Thatcher clattering into Pedro Mendes and nearly killing him, the current squad are upholding a fine, if somewhat undignified, tradition.
At the top of the Football League, Cardiff’s loss at Norwich has opened things up somewhat with Preston close behind, but West Bromwich Albion (leading Wolves 2-0 at the time of writing) are also moving ominously into form. Many of the bigger teams are languishing in mid-table, or worse. Southampton, Crystal Palace, Sunderland and Birmingham have all failed to get their seasons going, but none of them are as wretched as Leeds United, who collapsed for the second week in a row – 5-1 at Luton, this time. In “League One”, Nottingham Forest (my pre-season tips for promotion, for those of you that have forgotten) have opened up a gap at the top through beating Bristol City 1-0 at the City Ground. It will be nice to have them back in the Championship, at least. In “League 2″, Lincoln City wrote all the headlines through putting seven past Rochdale. They’ve scored twelve in two games now, though this sort of goalscoring of often the precursor to not getting promoted. When was the last time you saw Chelsea score twelve in two games? Consistency. That’s what it’s all about.